NFL MEETINGS : Realignment Sparks Owner Unrest
A funny thing happened on the eve of what the NFL is touting as its most peaceful owners’ meetings in 15 years.
The owners bickered. And bickered.
Behind potted plants, underneath man-made waterfalls, in various corners of a resort hotel here, discussions began on a topic that has suddenly become hot and heavy:
And the owners thought figuring out expansion was difficult.
“The 82nd Airborne couldn’t get this league realigned,” said Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns. “The last time we realigned (1970), it took so long, two of my suits went out of style.”
The reason for realignment is the inclusion of the two expansion teams for 1995, the Charlotte Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
The reason for problems is that the existing teams that should move do not want to do so.
And for the ones who want to move, there is no place for them to go.
“Geography doesn’t matter, because if it did, we wouldn’t have played this long in the current divisions,” said George Young, New York Giant general manager. “This is about tradition, about identification.”
Most of the league wants the Arizona Cardinals to move to the NFC West, therefore opening up a spot in the NFC East for Jacksonville.
But that one dissenter is Arizona.
Team officials claim they have experienced enough turmoil for one off-season after hiring Coach Buddy Ryan and then changing their name from “Phoenix.”
“We have established good rivalries in the East, and we want to keep those,” said Bill Bidwill, the Cardinal owner who cashes his biggest checks after the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants have come to town.
In the AFC, where the larger-market Panthers will be placed for television purposes, the East Division could have a vacancy if Indianapolis moves to the Central Division.
That’s what the Colts want. . . . “I feel sure we will move, and the Central Division would make sense,” said Jim Irsay, the team’s vice president.
But they would not be welcomed.
“Why would we want to do that?” asked Dan Rooney, Pittsburgh Steeler president. “We don’t need them in our division.”
Then there are the problems with the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Both teams want to leave the NFC West, but until a new Gulf Coast division is created, there is no place for them to go.
If the realignment committee cannot make a decision by May, Paul Tagliabue, NFL commissioner, has been given the power to insert the two new teams into the current divisions with vacancies--Charlotte to the AFC Central, Jacksonville to the NFC West.
“I think that’s what is going to happen,” Rooney said. “We gave the league an out, and they are going to take it. We’ll never get the majority to agree on any of these plans.”